After over a year of tense uncertainty, Italian manufacturers of machinery for, among others, the plastics and rubber industries are starting to breathe more easily. According to the latest figures from Amaplast, the trade association for the plastics and rubber processing machinery manufacturers in Italy, the first quarter of 2021 saw double-digit increases in orders and turnover were seen compared to the same period in 2020. The sector is looking ahead with optimism to a buoyant second quarter.
The end-of-quarter survey conducted by the MECS-AMAPLAST Statistical Studies Centre among member companies showed an average growth of 12% in registered sales, propelled by the outstanding performance of the domestic market (+16%), where sales in replacement parts boomed. Sales abroad were also up by nearly 10 percent.
Order intake increased even more impressively, again driven by a rise in domestic demand. Net orders for machinery and systems rose by 64%, thanks to the investment incentive measures in the Transition Plan 4.0, which provides for a tax credit for Italian companies investing in 2021 and 2022 in new new Industry 4.0 assets - machines, tools, robots, automation systems, 4.0 and digital technologies - in 2021 and 2022. Spare parts also performed very well at +29%.
Orders from abroad racked up a modest but satisfactory +8%. The companies have a 6-month horizon on their orders.
International demand is expected to gain strength in the second quarter, with growth projected at 18% and sales at +52%. A similar figure is also forecast for the domestic market, although orders are expected to fall to a respectable +4%.
The first-quarter performance has borne out the trend reversal that the association saw emerging cautiously last year after the initial impact of the 2020 pandemic, said Amaplast director Mario Maggiani, adding that even now, ‘the outlook is not entirely free of uncertainties and concerns.’
Challenges, including ‘political and commercial tensions, and a strong upward trend in raw material, component, and transportation costs, compounded by spikes in virus infections that we have not yet succeeded in fully suppressing with the vaccination campaign’, all remain to be overcome, he noted.
In terms of applications, the survey indicated that the outlook for all four segments — packaging, automotive, construction, and medical - was stable with an upward trend. Packaging, which held its ground throughout even the most critical months of the pandemic, had a slight edge over the others and continues to show a favourable trend. By contrast, the automotive sector was badly affected, although a few, faint signs of revival have also been reported. Meanwhile, the construction industry will benefit from the strong tax incentives currently in place.
“It is unlikely that we will see a return to pre-crisis levels this year,” Maggiani, concluded. “But the momentum we have built up in the first part of the year has allowed many companies to look to the future with greater optimism, hoping especially for a rapid and safe resumption of international transfers, given that over 70% of production in the sector continues to go into exports.”